This is my slightly shortened translation of yesterday’s article by Vladimir Yakovlev, published in a Russian Internet magazine blocked for internal consumption by Putin’s proud heirs to CheKa/GPU/NKVD/KGB.
I was named after my grandfather.
My grandfather, Vladimir Yakovlev, was a murderer, bloody executioner, CheKist. His numerous victims included his own parents.
Grandfather shot his father, guilty of bartering for food. Having learned about that, Grandpa’s mother, my great-grandmother, hanged herself.
My happiest childhood recollections involve our old, spacious Moscow flat, the family’s pride. As I found out later, the family didn’t buy the flat. It was confiscated – that is, taken away by force – from a rich merchant’s family.
I remember the old carved cupboard where I would sneak jam. And the large, cosy sofa where Granny and I, a blanket tucked around us, read fairy tales. And two huge leather armchairs that, according to the family tradition, were used for serious conversations only.
As I found out later, for most of her life Granny, whom I adored, worked as a professional agent provocateur. Born to nobility, she used her lineage to establish friendships and provoke frankness. She’d then write denunciations.
Grandpa and Grandma didn’t buy the sofa on which I listened to fairy tales, nor the cupboard, nor the other furniture. They picked them at a special warehouse stocking furniture from the homes of shot Muscovites.
Using that warehouse, CheKists furnished their flats for free.
Underneath a thin film of ignorance, my happy childhood recollections are saturated with the stench of robbery, murder, violence and treachery. They’re saturated with blood.
Am I alone in that?
All of us who grew up in Russia are grandchildren of victims or murderers. Absolutely all, with no exceptions. Your family didn’t have victims? So it had murderers. No murderers? So it had victims. Neither victims nor murderers? So it has secrets.
Don’t even doubt!
Assessing the scale of Russia’s past tragedy, we usually count the dead. However, to appreciate the psychological influence those tragedies had on the generations to come, we must count not the dead but the survivors. The dead died. The survivors became our parents or our parents’ parents.
The survivors are widows, orphans, the exiled, the dispossessed, those who killed to save themselves or for ideology, the betrayed and betrayers, the ruined, those who sold their conscience, those turned into executioners, the tortured and the torturers, the raped, the crippled, the robbed, those forced to inform, the humiliated, those who lived through deadly famines, imprisonment, camps.
The dead number tens of millions. The survivors, hundreds of millions. Hundreds of millions of those whose fear, pain, sense of constant menace from the outside world were passed on to their children who, in their turn, having added their own suffering to the pain, passed them on to us.
Statistically Russia has not a single family that one way or another doesn’t carry within itself the deadly consequences of the unprecedented savagery that went on for a century in our country.
Have you ever thought how this experience of three consecutive generations of your DIRECT ancestors is affecting your view of the world today? That of your wife? Your children?
If you haven’t, think now.
At school, we were taught about the beastliness of German Nazis. At university – about the crimes of Chinese Red Guards or Cambodian Khmer Rouge. They somehow forgot to tell us that history’s most horrifying genocide, unprecedented in scale and duration, happened not in Germany, China or Cambodia, but in our own country.
And living through this genocide weren’t those faraway Chinese or Koreans, but three consecutive generations of YOUR OWN family.
We often feel that the best way of protecting ourselves from the past is not to touch it, not to delve into family history, not to uncover the horrors that happened to our ancestors.
We feel it’s better not to know. In fact, it’s worse. Much.
What we don’t know continues to affect us, through childhood recollections, through relations with our parents. If we don’t know, we aren’t aware of this effect, which is why we’re powerless to resist it.
The most awful consequence of hereditary trauma is the inability to perceive it. And, as a corollary, the inability to realise how this trauma distorts our perception of today’s reality.
It’s immaterial what personifies fear for each of us, what each of us sees as a threat – America, the Kremlin, the Ukraine, homosexuals or Turks, ‘depraved’ Europe, fifth column or simply a boss at work or a policeman at the entrance to a station.
…in 1919, during the famine, my murderer grandfather was dying of consumption. He was saved from death by [CheKa head] Felix Dzerzhinsky, who dragged in from somewhere, probably from another ‘special’ warehouse, a carton of French sardines in oil. Grandfather ate them for a month and only because of that stayed alive.
Does this mean I owe my life to Dzerzhinsky?
And if so, how am I supposed to live with that?
Such voices aren’t allowed to reach Russians. Here are the kind of voices that scream off every TV screen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtkvbwVrgDg
In an eerie echo of German women of yesteryear screaming “I want a child by the Führer”, this women’s folk choir is singing “We all want to marry Putin” and “give him our maidenly honour”. The ladies’ ‘maidenly honour’ seems to be long gone, but it’s the thought that counts.